Written on April 15th in the evening from Nairobi, Kenya.
It’s my last night in Africa. I leave tomorrow for the U.S., with stops in Amsterdam, Detroit, and finally landing in Greensboro.
I’m not as happy to be going as I thought I would be. I’ve been so looking forward to seeing everyone in the U.S., and I still am, but I find that I have fallen in love with this continent. I used to count down the days until I could go back to the U.S., but now that the day is finally here, I find that I don’t really want to leave Africa. I’ve had the opportunity to see and be a part of so many different cultures, and it’s been eye-opening and unforgettable to live like an African for an extended period of time in both Tanzania and Ethiopia. Visits to Uganda and Kenya have made me sure I’ll come back sometime. When I hear myself explain what I’ve been doing since last summer to the other backpackers here at the hostel, it sounds like a dream, like an adventure that wasn’t me, but some other really interesting person’s life. “I’ve been in Africa since last summer. I started in Tanzania, teaching at a primary school. After one semester, I went to visit friends in Uganda for Christmas and rafted the Nile and go-karted around Lake Victoria. I then flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where I worked at Mother Teresa’s home for the dying for a few months. Last week I came back to Kenya for a bit of tourist fun before leaving for good. I walked through the slums of Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa, and I went on a 3-day safari to the Masai Mara with some friends, where we saw 26 different kinds of animals. Now I’m leaving tomorrow night for the U.S.” That’s me? I never expected to have this range of experiences last August. I’m so grateful for everyone who’s helped me along the way, all the friends I’ve made, the things I’ve seen and done, and the way that God moved me from place to place and experience to experience and taught me more than I ever thought.
I came to Africa last August thinking that my relationship with God might grow stronger. I never expected my worldview to shift as it has. And I’m grateful to God for keeping me safe here. I haven’t been in the safest places in the world, but the worst that I’ve encountered is a relatively small amount of money stolen in Nairobi last October, some people taking my soap from the hostel, and harmless catcalling from Ethiopians at night. For 8 months in Africa, traveling around by myself to four different countries, that’s nothing.
I treasured my last days at Mother Teresa’s. My friend Brittany suggested that I check out working with handicapped kids in the U.S., and I think I will. I found that I love children with disabilities, and that they are so special to me. I miss my boys from Mother Teresa’s a lot. I hope I can come back to visit them someday. They are amazing, precious people. On Monday, I flew to Nairobi for the week. Some friends from Ethiopia, Tom and Alyssa, flew in a few days later, and we all headed out to the southwest Mara region of Kenya for three days: Thursday through Saturday. The ride there was bumpy but beautiful, and we drove through the Great Rift Valley. Masai country was excellent, and apparently our campsite was a fun place for people from the Masai tribe to hang out, because men in Masai garb were constantly cycling in and out of the camp. I loved speaking Swahili to them and surprising them with the fact that a mzungu girl knew their language well. They didn’t expect it. We went on a game drive on Friday in the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Alyssa and I made a list of all the animals we saw, and we were so close to them, just watching them in their natural habitat. It was fantastic. Because I’m going to make you jealous, I’ll list them here: gazelles, wildebeest, zebra, baboon, lion, elephant, meercat, warthog, ostrich, tortoise, giraffe, antelope, buffalo, birds, hart beast, hornbill, water buck, impala, hippo, crocodile, mongoose, leopard, stork, dikdik, vermer monkey, rhino, and spring hare. It was ridiculous. They were so different and amazing. We saw all of the Big Five (lions, elephants, leopards, rhino, and buffalo), and most groups only see two or three. Seeing the leopard was my favorite. It was beautiful and so menacing. The giraffes were very regal, and the elephants lumbering. The hippos were so cute. We went to the Mara River to see them, where the wildebeests migrate by the thousands. It was an excellent safari, and I’m so glad I went.
Today, Alyssa and I spent time in downtown Nairobi, going to City Market and the Kenya Conference Center, where you can see all of Nairobi from a great view on the top floor, and eating at a distinctly Kenyan restaurant that the vendors at the market recommended. We were the only white girls. I loved that. In America, the first meal I want to eat is Mexican. I haven’t had Mexican food since August and I want it so bad. I’m looking forward to seeing my family, friends, having my own car instead of taking public transport, and even going to college in Philadelphia in the fall. I’ve really missed learning new things in the classroom. I’ve surely learned so much from my experiences here, but I’ve missed being challenged to think and articulate my thoughts excellently. If I’m strange when I get back, it’s because I’m anticipating some pretty horrible reverse culture-shock, with my home of decadent America. I forget a lot of things exist, like swimming pools, insurance, recycling, wealth, and consumerism. These things just don’t exist here, and I’ve been so long without them that it’s strange to think of life with them. The grid system? Yes! Totally just thought of that. I’m so excited about the grid system of roads in downtown Greensboro. I’m also excited about hopefully getting involved in theatre and working a job again. So there’s mixed feelings. So much to appreciate about the States, so much to miss from Africa. If anything, this year has made me determined to travel as much as I can. I’d love to backpack through Europe, study abroad in England or Italy or Spain, visit Hawaii and learn how to scuba dive, and live in South America. Life is so much richer if you immerse yourself in things totally foreign to you. It’s been amazing learning a language, a few different ways of life, seeing things I’d never see in the States, and learning how to travel around! I’ve loved it. This year has been wonderful and enriching in so many different ways. When you next hear from me, it’ll be from U.S. soil. See you later! Tutaonana baada ya!